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Them's fightin' foods: New hospital classes stress eating right to prevent disease

fresh fruit and vegetables
A healthy diet of fresh fruit and vegetables can help fight cancer. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

By Linwood Outlaw III -- loutlaw@nvdaily.com

People with strong cravings for juicy hamburgers, steaks and other red meats readily admit it's hard to pass up such foods in favor of plain fruits and vegetables.

But it's these kinds of delicious meats and other foods with lots of calories and fat that can increase one's risk of getting cancer.

"The issue with fast foods, really, is the fact that most of them are animal-based items, and they're high in calories and saturated fat, and trans fats in some cases," said Sara Kuykendall, a dietitian with Valley Health Wellness Services. "So, that leads to, perhaps, overweight and obesity, which we do know is an issue. And, obesity is a risk factor for cancer. There are some places that serve vegetables and fruits as choices. But, if you're thinking about [buying] the sandwich and the fries and the soda, it's really going to be a high calorie, high fat type of meal that's not going to give you the phytonutrients that we really need."

Proper nutrition for preventing cancer will be the focal point of free classes being offered by Valley Health on Sept. 18 from 11:30 a.m. to noon at Shenandoah Memorial Hospital in Woodstock and 1 to 1:30 p.m. in the outpatient center conference room at Warren Memorial Hospital in Front Royal.

An estimated 1,479,350 new cancer cases will be diagnosed this year, and more than 560,000 people are projected to die from related illnesses, according to the American Cancer Society. While cancer is commonly linked to excessive smoking and tobacco use, an estimated one-third of cancer deaths in the country are due to poor diet and physical inactivity factors.

"Actually, poor diet is linked to the majority of cancers. That is a risk factor," Kuykendall said. "And a lot of people who smoke maybe aren't eating enough vegetables and fruits, either."

Research has shown that cooking certain meats at elevated temperatures can create chemicals that are not present in uncooked meats and enhance cancer risk, according to the National Cancer Institute's Web site. Heterocyclic amines, for example, are carcinogenic chemicals that develop when muscle meats like pork, beef and fish are cooked. Heterocyclic amines form when amino acids and creatine react to high cooking temperatures. At least 17 different heterocyclic amines derived from cooked muscle meats are linked to human cancer risk, researchers say.

Though studies in rodent models have found that acrylamide -- a chemical used primarily for industrial purposes -- causes risk for cancer, evidence based on human studies are deficient, according to National Cancer Institute experts. Acrylamide is often found in potato chips, french fries and other foods cooked in high temperatures.

The best advice for developing dietary habits aimed at staving off cancer, Kuykendall says, is simple: Load up on plant-based foods and limit your consumption of fried foods and red and processed meats whenever possible. Kuykendall said people should eat five or more servings of a variety of vegetables and fruits each day. Healthy recipes that include beans, legumes and whole grains are also helpful, she said.

"We're really trying to encourage people to fill their plate more like two-thirds full of plant items," Kuykendall said. "We would suggest limiting the red meats, and the processed meat items are not so beneficial."

An easy-to-make dish in that regard, Kuykendall said, is green beans with tomatoes and herbs, a dish made with olive oil, garlic cloves, onions, black pepper, basil and oregano. Quick Bean Salad, meanwhile, is made with garbanzo beans, french-style green beans, artichoke hearts and fat-free Italian dressing.

Another dish piled with cancer-preventing nutrients, Red Cabbage with Apples, is made with two cups of apple juice or cider, two to four tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, allspice, three cups of shredded red cabbage, a cup of chopped or grated red apple, and a pinch of salt, Kuykendall said.

To register for the nutrition for cancer prevention classes being offered by Valley Health, call 800-662-7831 or 536-3050.

Recipes for cancer prevention

Green Beans with Tomatoes & Herbs

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

1 small onion, chopped

1 large ripe tomato, diced or can (14 oz. size) diced tomatoes

1 teaspoon minced fresh basil (1/2 tsp. dried)

1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano (1/2 tsp. dried)

3/4 pound washed, trimmed green beans

Black pepper, to taste

In non-stick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and sauté for 5 minutes.

Add tomato, basil, and oregano. Cook 2 minutes.

Add green beans. Cover & cook 6 minutes. Add pepper, to taste.

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 54 calories, 2 g fat, 10 g carbohydrate, 2 g protein, 3 g dietary fiber, 7 mg sodium

-- Source: "The New American Plate Veggies," American Institute for Cancer Research.

Red Cabbage with Apple

2 cups apple juice or cider

2-4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon allspice

3 cups shredded red cabbage

1 cup chopped or grated red apple

Pinch of salt, optional

In medium saucepan, bring apple juice, vinegar, and allspice to a boil. Add cabbage, red apple, and salt if desired. Simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve warm or cold.

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 96 calories, less than 1 g fat, 24 g carbohydrate, 1 g protein, 3 g dietary fiber, 85 mg sodium

-- Source: "The New American Plate Veggies," American Institute for Cancer Research

Quick Bean Salad

1-15 oz. can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1-16 oz. can French style green beans, drained

1-14 oz. can artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained, and quartered*

1/2 cup fat-free Italian dressing

Combine first three ingredients in a large bowl, tossing lightly.

Pour dressing over vegetables, toss well, and chill for two hours or more before serving.

Makes 8 servings.

Per serving: 90 calories, 1 g fat, 14 g carbohydrate, 5 g protein, 3 g dietary fiber, 290 mg sodium

*or use 1-15 oz. can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

-- Source: www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov


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